« chapter xiii | chapter xv »

Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter XIV


The night was very dark and cold. A little horned moon gave as much light as let me see the riband of road stretched out before me, and no more. The lines of ruined tombs on both sides were only shapeless blacknesses silhouetted on blacker blackness. I cared nothing then for the pleasures of sight.

The cool fresh breath of Lady Night greeted my nostrils, and caressed my flesh as I ran.

The hum of the City very soon was left behind. I heard naught save the sighs of the sleeping earth and the quick delicate patter of my well-shod footsteps.

The aromatic flavour of herbs growing by the roadside was on my lips: from time to time my protruded tongue tasted the cool sweetness.


All my body tingled with the pleasure of swift movement.

I thought of nothing at all: letting my forces collect and develop only in pressing onward with long light striding. I knew that the triumph of our Lord the Paparch depended on me, that I was alone and unprotected: but I felt myself to be so terribly strong that I could have shouted for very gladness. I saved my breath; and continued running. More than this I cannot tell thee of my running, o mine own mercurial Prospero: for I myself know nothing more.

I went with extreme caution by Cajetani’s Tower:1 but the darkness of midnight and the malignance of that baron’s stars favoured me, so that the watch did not perceive my passing. That was the only real piece of danger in mine enterprize. Having escaped it, I stretched myself to the fulness of my speed.

Anon the straight white way lost itself

1. The tomb of Cecilia Metalla, apparently then used as a fortress by the bandit baron Cajetani.


beneath a carpet of grass.1 I guided my course between the gaunt ruins of the tombs on each hand. I could not pass Solfatara1 without refreshing myself; and, having denuded my body reeking with sweat, I plunged into the pool again and again until all my flesh was benumbed. I will tell thee, o Prospero, that thy father at that moment was in a mood for violent feats. My strength was multiplied a thousand times by the cold water: but the heart in my breast rejoiced greatly, because I knew that I was in a way to break my fetters. Wherefore I set out again at augmented speed, desiring to accomplish mine errand, but also to leave behind me the disgusting stench of the pool.

Hereafter, in my running, I thought of my maid in the City, who knew not what great deeds her loving lover was doing in order that

1. The Old Appian Way was disused between Palombaro and Bovillae. Near the latter place the juncture with the New Appian Way occurs.

2. An antique sulpher spring.


he might win her. But these thoughts went near to impede my progress: for which cause I postponed them until a more opportune occasion.

The night became more obscure; and I ran for a very long time keeping my mind in abeyance, concentrating all my physical force on my running.

Anon the moon set; and there was no light but dim starlight. It behoved me to go very cautelously: for, at Albano was Savelli, fortified, rebellious. Wherefore, having prayed to my proper divinities as well as to those who were the protectors of my maid, beseeching them that they would bring me to the herborough where I would be, I ascended the hill, passing that city on the right; and made my way by the lake into Aricia.

I was running by faith and not by sight. The road was much more difficult by cause of the many ups and downs. But I did not slacken speed: for I knew that my stars were as benignant as possible.


Cinthyanum1 was still asleep as I fled through its street, silent, vacant. In all my journey indeed I encountered no one of human origin, clearly shewing that the gods approved my course. I might have rested safely anywhere in the dark. But I would not: for I feared lest my limbs should stiffen; and there was in my mind only the sole desire of fulfilling my mission. Wherefore I continued to run faster and faster, knowing how very grateful is rest after activity very strenuous, very prolonged.

Anon the darkness of the night gave way to a certain timid greyness, whereby I was enabled to follow the windings of the road with less caution. But by cause that dawn was near, I put forth all my vigour. I was conscious only that my legs were swinging to and fro with no effort, lightly-flying, space-devouring. I was happy, by cause of them, by cause that my flesh glowed in the cold air, by cause that I was alive and doing.

1. Genzano di Roma.


Naught else gave me happiness, here, at the end of my journey. So I entered Velletri, through the gate, with the dawn.